Lewis Hamilton he “didn’t quite understand” why Formula 1 title rival Max Verstappen suddenly braked when being ordered to let him by during the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix.

After a chaotic race that saw two red flag stoppages and multiple incidents, Hamilton outfought Verstappen in a heated on-track battle to draw level on points with the Red Bull driver heading into the season finale next weekend.

Having jumped Hamilton at the third standing start, Verstappen found himself under attack from the seven-time world champion in the second half of the race and was forced to defend at Turn 1 on Lap 37.

Verstappen’s attempt to keep Hamilton behind resulted in both drivers running wide, which led to Red Bull radioing him to give the lead to Hamilton with the incident noted by race control.

Obeying the instructions, Verstappen backed off approaching the final corner, only for Hamilton run into the rear of his car.

Hamilton accused Verstappen of brake-testing having picked up front wing damage from the contact, but overtook the Dutch driver when he ceded the place once again, only for Verstappen to retake it with the help of DRS on the main straight.

Hamilton eventually regained the lead and pulled out a gap, while Verstappen received a five-second time penalty for gaining an advantage in the Turn 1 incident.

When asked to reflect on his duel with Verstappen, Hamilton said he was confused by the whole debacle.

“I didn’t quite understand why suddenly [Verstappen] hit the brakes pretty heavily,” Hamilton said.

“I ran into the back of him, and then he moved on. So I didn’t understand exactly what was going on.

“I got a message afterwards that he was going to let us past. So it was a bit confusing.”

Hamilton said he tried to prioritise “keeping the car on track and staying clean” during his battle with Verstappen, knowing a race-ending collision could have proved costly in his title bid.

“I tried to be as sensible and as tough as I could be out there, and with all my race experience over the years, just keeping the car on track and staying clean – that was difficult,” Hamilton said.

“But we persevered as a team. We’ve had all sorts of things thrown at us during the second half of the season, so I’m just really proud of everyone.”

Speaking to Sky Sports F1 after the race, Hamilton admitted he struggled keep his composure and felt Verstappen’s driving was “over the limit”.

“For me, I really have to try and just keep my cool out there, which was really difficult to do,” Hamilton said.

“I’ve raced a lot of drivers through my life. In 28 years, I’ve come across a lot of different characters. And there’s a few at the top which are like, over the limit. Rules kind of don’t apply or don’t think of the rules.

“Today I was just trying to do my talking on track, keep my car between the white lines and do it the right way.”

Asked if Verstappen was a driver who went beyond the limit, Hamilton replied: “He’s over the limit, for sure.

“I’ve avoided collisions on so many occasions with the guy. I don’t always mind being the guy that does that. Because you live to fight another day, which I obviously did.”